Well past midnight and the performance was over. The cast popped the beer tops and celebrated the grand opening weekend. The Van Man said his goodbyes and left. He was worn. Was it months of the incessant cough? Was it his thirty-four years? Perhaps, something deeper. Paris burned across the pond and everything else seemed muted. The November evening was chilly. Van Man warmed the engine. It was not his war. Nor was it his cast mates or the random people who came for the show. The smokers smoked outside, energized by performance. Van Man drove away, lacking something deep down.
North on San Pedro Street. The heart of Skid Row, downtown of the destitute. Venice had its beach bums. The Valley housed the tramps looking for something a bit quiet. But Skid Row was where the beggars could really make some scratch. Tents lined both sides of the street. Some of the hobos stared in uncomfortable reverence as the van drove by. They'd give their legs for this monster, thought Van Man as he locked his door. Did the down-and-out understand a holy war was being waged? Did they even know? The other side of the world had bombings and massacres. The LA streets had hunger and despair. Holy warriors looked forward to paradise. The homeless only had shame. The van turned west on Third Street.
Saturday night filed out onto the sidewalks. One in the morning and the bars began to close shop. Early for some, but late for Los Angeles. It was, after all, the city that needed its beauty sleep. A woman crouched in a nook and pissed while her girlfriend kept watch. The ladies were dressed for a good night out and must have found it. The fact they were both sixty only fazed Van Man for a moment. Cool, he thought as the van sped up to catch the light. Life long friends. He wondered how many times they each played lookout while the other peed in public.
The strangest things brought people together. War, religion, homelessness, public urination. Sometimes they forged deep relationships. Real connections were hard to find in life. When a person found one, it seemed important to hold on. Forever. But that was not reality, was it? Van Man knew better. He came into the world alone and he was going out alone. That was true for everyone. The only thing real that one had was one's self. Everything else was open for corruption. The world was a tough place and a person had better have a strong stomach. Of course, having a pee buddy had its rewards, too. The van drove on to the park. The skyscrapers shrank behind in the distance. And The Van Man realized he never wanted to be too tough. It was nice to have things to hold on to, even for a short time.